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Statement by Ambassador Christoph Heusgen on the occasion of World Wildlife Day - March 2, 2018

02.03.2018 - Pressemitteilung

(check against delivery)

Mr. President,

Madam Deputy Secretary General

Secretary-General of CITES [John Scanlon]

Excellencies, Friends,

It is an honor for me to address you today on behalf of the two Co-Chairmen of the Group of Friends of Wildlife: my distinguished colleague Ambassador Michel Xavier Biang and myself. Over the last five years, Gabon and Germany have worked together with member states to combat illicit wildlife trafficking and poaching. I appreciate the excellent partnership with our friends from Gabon and look forward to our future endeavors in the fight against illicit trafficking in wildlife.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During its last session, the General Assembly adopted its third resolution against illicit wildlife trafficking and agreed on substantial enhancements to its global guidance, based on its first ever resolution in 2015. Through this resolution, the GA reaffirmed its firm stance that it will not stand by as numerous species are threatened with extinction. It also made clear that this topic will remain on its agenda and that we are dedicated to effect changes on the ground.

Let me briefly highlight three areas in which last year’s resolution has achieved substantial progress and it incorporated on a global level the latest developments in other fora:

First, the resolution, for the first time, considers the connection between illicit wildlife trafficking, its link to the illicit trade in small arms and the potential threat to national and regional stability in some parts of Africa. This is an important step forward, given that poacher networks are increasingly better-organized, better equipped and continue not only to fuel warlords but also extremist groups, which is as dangerous as incontrollable. But there is still a long way ahead of us. Poaching no longer constitutes only an illicit predation against wildlife and biodiversity. Its wake of violence is also a transnational threat to the human species.

Second, the latest resolution considerably expanded the aspect of sustainable development in the context of conservation and protection of wildlife. It now

  • emphasizes the necessity of a comprehensive approach to protecting wild fauna and flora and to combating the illicit trade in wildlife and wildlife products,
  • encourages Member States to increase the capacity of local communities to pursue sustainable livelihood opportunities and eradicate poverty and
  • encourages Member States to integrate measures to address illegal trade in wildlife into development policy and the programming of development cooperation activities

Third, the resolution incorporates the common fight against corruption, also in the context of illicit wildlife trafficking. In this regard, Member States call upon parties to implement all relevant resolutions and decisions adopted at CITES COP 17, to ensure that legal domestic markets for wildlife products are not used to mask the trade in illegal wildlife products and to take measures making permit systems more resistant to corruption through modern information and communication technologies.

With the new biennial periodicity, this year will be the first without a new GA resolution. But the issue will not rest, and we cannot rest. The Group of Friends will closely follow current developments also in preparation for the next GA session. And, of course, we are determined to promote implementation of what has been achieved so far. In the fall of this year, the British government will host the IWT conference in London. This conference will once again send a strong signal against illicit trafficking by identifying new challenges and taking stock of achievements and gaps.

Furthermore, we need to establish and strengthen existing partnerships at the national, regional and international levels to consolidate the support for local communities for the conservation and sustainable management of wildlife.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The topic of this year’s World Wildlife Day highlights the urgency to make progress in our fight against illicit wildlife trafficking. Big and small cats are endangered in many regions across the globe, mainly by the loss of their natural habitat and from poaching and hunting. The sad truth is the African continent could lose its entire population of wild lions in only a few decades. This illustrates the urgency of the matter, especially looking at the younger generations. We have to take up this fight not only for ourselves but for future generations.

What we need is concrete actions on the ground. Let me highlight one example of what can be done. In the field of protecting Big Cats, the last COPs of CITES and of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) agreed on concerted measures to step up protection efforts for African carnivores. This “African Carnivores Initiative” can serve as a model for future cooperation between different organizations with complementary protection mandates.

As John Scanlon [Secretary-General of CITES] tirelessly emphasizes that this fight, our common fight against wildlife trafficking, will ultimately be won or lost in the field. Our joint resolution against illicit trafficking in wildlife seeks to bring together input from all relevant sources, including from the Secretary-General and UNODC in their reports, from international conferences including the CITES COPs and the IWT conferences and from the experience of organizations dedicated to our common endeavor.

First and foremost, the resolution seeks to provide guidance for member states and for those active in wildlife protection to make our efforts more coordinated, effective and successful. As Co-Chairs of the Group of Friends, Gabon and Germany are grateful to be involved in this work.

Before closing, allow me to express our profound gratitude to John Scanlon for his invaluable contributions to this mission. He has always been there for the Group of Friends with his advice and support. Over the last few years, he has tirelessly advocated for real change in the fight against illicit wildlife trafficking! John, thank you very much.

Let me close my remarks by thanking all the delegations involved in this process since the beginning, especially every single member of the Group of Friends, and those who are making significant efforts in order to promote our joint efforts.

We will continue to strive for the active support of even more member states across all geographical groups on this matter of common interest.

Thank you, Mr. President.

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